Rumours are circulating wildly that American actress Madonna and her British husband
Guy Ritchie may come to Cambodia to adopt a baby sister for David Banda, the boy
they adopted from Malawi in 2006. British tabloid The Sun claimed the couple hoped
the adoption processes in Cambodia would involve less red tape than in Malawi.
Although Madonna may have been able to use her US citizenship to fast track an adoption
in Malawi, it's unlikely there would be less "red tape" in Cambodia as
long as a current ban on US adoptions here remains in force.
Both the United States and Britain have suspended adoptions from Cambodia except
under certain extraordinary circumstances.
The US has not allowed adoptions from Cambodia since 2001 due to reports of child
trafficking and concerns about fraudulent documentation. Britain followed suit in
The last two recorded adoptions by Americans were finalized in 2006, although they
had begun in 2001, according to Jeff Daigle, US Embassy spokesman.
According to lawmaker Son Chhay, Cambodian adoption legislation is still far away
from meeting international adoption standards. "In the last two years adoptions
from Cambodia have decreased significantly because of the suspensions," he said.
"At present Cambodian legislation is not even half way to meeting such standards
as the Hague Convention on adoption."
There is international pressure on Cambodia to change adoption legislation towards
The Hague Convention model, which seeks to ensure the safety of the children, birth
parents and adoptive parents in the process. In 1993, sixty countries including the
US and Britain signed the Hague Adoption Convention to stop child trafficking via
adoptions. In December 2006 the convention was sent to Cambodian lawmakers for approval,
but it has not been approved.
Although Americans and British citizens can under certain circumstances adopt a child
in Cambodia, they would not be able to get a visa for the child from either country,
unless for example, the adopted child lived with the family under their legal and
physical custody in Cambodia for two years or more.
Daigle explained that visa decisions are made on a case-by-case basis if the adoptive
parents meet relevant criteria. "It is a complex legal issue, not one that can
be easily simplified," he said. In Britain, prospective parents who believe
they have exceptional circumstances can apply to the Department of Children, Schools,
and Families requesting an exception from the ban.
Madonna's adoption of David Banda was finalized in December 2006, and has been making
tabloid copy ever since because of allegations that she flouted local adoption laws.
The boy's mother had died and he was living in an orphanage, but the boy's father
at one point claimed he didn't understand that his son would be leaving Malawi. He
has since said repeatedly he's happy for his son and with Madonna's generosity. Madonna's
interest in Cambodia is said to have been piqued by the actress Angelina Jolie's
adoption of a boy, Maddox, in 2002.
Madonna could however have another loophole: her father was a first generation Italian-American.
Italy still allows adoptions from Cambodia.